About lizz

Freelance artist living in Sheffield UK.

The Lord Mayor visits In Praise of Libraries

 

The Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Councillor Anne Murphy being greeted by Mary Grover,  founder of Reading Sheffield.

Chatting with historian Loveday Herridge, Reading Sheffield treasurer.

With Val Hewson, Reading Sheffield social media editor.

Visitors to the exhibition perusing the books. A selection of children’s annuals, novels and factual books, pamphlets and magazines published in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Listening to the Sheffield Readers voices.

 

 

 

The Reading Journey of Florence Cowood

Florence was born in Huddersfield in 1923 and moved to Sheffield when her father got an engineering job there.  Later her parents ran a greengrocer’s shop.  The family lived in the Abbey Lane area; initially she attended a private school and then Abbey Lane Primary when it opened.  She passed the eleven plus examination at the age of 10, and went to Abbeydale Girls’ Grammar School.  At sixteen, after passing the School Certificate in English and Botany, she went to the Commercial College on Psalter Lane.  In 1939 she left school aged 16 and got a job with the LNER, the London and North Eastern Railway.  At the end of the war she married and gave up work.

florence-cowood-wedding-

Florence was always passionate about reading:

In fact, if I was ever naughty and I was sent to my room, my mother always made sure I hadn’t got a book because she knew it was no punishment if I had a book.

One of her earliest recollections is reading one of her grandmother’s books, Little Folks:

home-painting-copy

I read all sorts of bits out of it: school stories, adventure stories, little poems, letters from children who were stationed in India, letters to the editor.

Florence’s family encouraged her reading: her grandfather was a headmaster and bought her the books for grammar school.  Her godmother was a teacher and gave her books for Christmas presents: ‘she once gave me a whole lot of Enid Blyton’.

Her mother also loved reading:

mary-anerly-book

I’ve got some of my mother’s books that she had as a young woman … [Mary] Anerley, two volumes of The Count of Monte Cristo. Little Women and Good Wives, yes.  That was my mother’s book.

Gone With the Wind was a present from her mother for her nineteenth birthday.

As a result of family circumstances, Florence spent a lot of time in libraries as she got older, especially in the Central Library :

‘That’s why I used to go to the library and that, because I think I was rather a solitary child, in that your parents are busy working.  And I used, on a Saturday morning, I used to go down to the [Library].  Have a little trot around Woolworths by myself, get myself some sweeties.  And I used to go to Central Library, get my library books, go up to the Art Gallery.  I used to like to go up there to look at the pictures.  And then I used to go down to the Reading Room.  You could read all sorts of magazines down there, and I used to spend the whole day, you know, really, and then come home on the tram you know, and read my library books.

Probably another reason Florence spent so much time in libraries was that she did not see much of her school friends:

I had loads of friends, but in those days, when you went to a grammar school … People came from all over the city …So my best friend lived at  Pitsmoor … another one lived out in Grindleford.

Reading was a private thing – Florence didn’t discuss her choice of books with anyone.

At school she read the familiar titles: Anne of Green Gables (she liked the struggle of the little girl); What Katy Did; Black Beauty (she loved horses); but as she got older, she graduated to more adult books.  Elizabeth Goudge’s Green Dolphin Country was a present for Christmas 1944 and Florence still has her copy, which she bought herself, of  Daphne du Maurier’s The King’s General.  Others she borrowed from the library, like A Tree Grew in Brooklyn and all Nevil Shute’s books (except Requiem for a Wren).

She read Jane Eyre but

some of the older books, you know, like Jane Eyre, they can be a bit fulsome, if you know what I mean.

Florence had what would be considered a modern view of education – not one recognisable to Mr Squeers or Mr Gradgrind!

Knowledge and education isn’t knowing a whole load of facts.  It’s knowing where to find the information you want.  And I think a book is, to open a book and you find things out that you never knew before.

She read for pleasure not for self-improvement or because she thought she ought to read them:

I’ve got a full set of Dickens, but I haven’t read much of him.  My godmother used to send me two or three every birthday, so I’ve got the full set.  I didn’t really appreciate it… quite frankly, a lot of them bore me to death.

After school, as a girl, her opportunities were limited:

Well, you had a choice.  You either went in a shop, or a hairdresser’s, or you went in an office.  No, there wasn’t this business about going to university and this, that and the other.

She wanted to be a reporter and got a job on the local newspaper :

I worked in the publicity department with Gloops* and all that sort, you know.  And then the war broke and … they closed the paper down …  And my father said, ‘You have to get a job’ and I went to work for the North Eastern Railway.

Florence stayed there throughout the war as it was a reserved occupation and then married in 1946.

I worked there until I got married.  And then I left, of course, when I got married.

However she still managed to keep on reading.

I did go on reading, but … I was occupied other ways then, you know, with cooking and all the rest of it you do when you’re married.

In some senses reading changed Florence’s life: she enjoyed reading about foreign places and travel which led to:

a love of wanting to explore, wanting to find out about things.  I’m always interested in people, how people live…

Different books stimulated interest in different parts of the world:

Green Dolphin Country, gave me a yen for Australia -…You know, the other side of the world.  I didn’t go to New Zealand, but I have been to Australia. … I used to like the Sundowners and all stories.

Her visit to South Africa was also stimulated by what she read.

The Valley of the Vines one gave me a yen for South Africa.  I eventually went to South Africa and saw the Valley of the Vines… I always was interested in [South Africa], in particular around the Cape, the Cape district, and of course I went there, but it’s a long time ago now. Well, Nelson Mandela was still on Robbin Island and there was still apartheid.  That was just after Sharpeville, I think

Florence was also a poet and painter – self-taught.

florence-cowood-higger-tor-

I went to the local art class … Well, my husband used to go fishing and I didn’t know what to do.  And I didn’t particularly want to knit, and I decided I’d try and paint a picture and it went from there.

She was interested in books about shipwrecks and painted the wreck of the Royal Charter ‘… and that is mentioned in Dickens, in Uncommercial Traveler’.  She used books for  reference for both her painting and gardening.

florence-cowood-the-golden-wreck-

florence-cowood-Golden-Wreck-at-Anglesea

The following is a fitting tribute to the power of books and to the zest for life which Florence showed so clearly:

This is my own bit of things, and I found it, I saw it in the library van once.

I’ve travelled the world twice over,

And met the famous saints and sinners,

Poets and artists, kings and queens,

All stars and hopeful beginners.

I’ve been where no one’s been before,

Drawn secrets from writers and cooks,

Always with a library ticket

To the wonderful world of books.

 

I would like to say that books have been me life, all me life, and without them, my life would be nothing like as good as it has been.  Because books have been there.

 

  • Gloops was a cartoon cat who appeared from 1928 until the 1980s in the Sheffield Star.  There was a Gloops club for children.  Gloops was hugely popular.

Written by Sue Roe

Access Florence’s audio and transcript here

 

Lizz’s recollections of reading 1950-65

My dad was an agronomist and when I was very young we lived in farms and agricultural colleges.  My first recollections of a book as an object were pictures in a board book of farmyard animals, which I still have.

favourite-animals-

Every Christmas I received a book from my Aunty Mary.  She was the Principal of Leicester Teacher Training College so I expect that the books she chose were to be educational as well enjoyable.  My dad read to me every night before I went to sleep, and Aunty Mary’s books formed the core of my book collection.  This is a period when books were chosen for me – for example, John Masefield (The Box of Delights), Hugh Lofting (the Dr Dolittle series) Grimms’ Fairy Tales, C S Lewis (the Narnia series), T H White (The Sword in the Stone), Andrew Lang’s Blue and Green Fairy Books, Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden), Rosemary Sutcliff (The Eagle of the Ninth), A Wonder Book by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  My favourites?  Dr Dolittle, The Magician’s Nephew, The Box of Delights and The Secret Garden.

A-wonder-book-

dr-dolittle-

One of Aunty Mary’s last Christmas present books was The Hobbit, but I did not read Lord of the Rings until I was at university.

I became horse-mad around the age of six, and from then until about the age of ten  horses dominated my reading.  I had a huge volume called Horses, Horses, Horses that I read over and over again.  Books by the three Pullein-Thompson sisters ring a bell; Black Beauty of course; a series about Romney Marsh; plus books on anatomy, riding, drawing and breeds of horses.  As a family we often used the library at Impington Village College, where my dad ran a film club.  I used to design and make the posters for the film screenings.  My parents still directed my reading to some extent – for example, I was not allowed to read ‘trashy comics’.  I got round this by devouring huge piles of the Beano and the Dandy. They were stored in a cupboard with gas masks and a tin helmet at a friend’s house.  We also did not have a television, because it might interfere with our reading.  Sounds crazy now.

The telly arrived when I was 11, and I increasingly selected my own reading.  I was indirectly influenced because my parents just left their books about and I would pick them up.  Women authors dominated my mum’s reading.  She was a great fan of Jane Austen, and Emily and Charlotte Bronte.  I had to read Pride and Prejudice for ‘O’ level English Lit but never really got on with Jane Austen.  But I did enjoy Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.  The Loving Spirit by Daphne du Maurier was one of mum’s favourites.  Among the authors that I read due to her influence were: Edna O’Brien; Anita Brookner; Winifred Holtby; Rebecca West; A S Byatt; Katherine Whitehorn; Doris Lessing; Muriel Spark; Iris Murdoch.

My dad in contrast read contemporary fiction.  Through him I read: John Updike; Salinger; John Braine; J P Donleavy; Thomas Pynchon; D H Lawrence; Hermann Hesse; and Kerouac.

Other authors I remember reading between 11 and 17 were: H G Wells; John Masters; John Wyndham; Lynne Reid Banks (The L Shaped Room); Jean Rhys; Malcolm Lowry (Under the Volcano); Patrick White; Saul Bellow; Zola; William Golding.  I waded through The Herries Chronicles (Hugh Walpole) and attempted to read Lorna Doone but found the dialect tedious.  However I quite liked Chaucer which, along with Shakespeare and a considerable amount of poetry (largely forgotten), was on the school syllabus.

Then there were the forbidden books – The Story of O by Pauline Réage, and the Kama Sutra.  (Titles were passed pupil to pupil.)

I had six large factual books that I looked at repeatedly and which, looking back, have influenced the science and art that I did later.

  • Lionel Wendt’s Ceylon.  My mum was a nurse in the Voluntary Aid Detachment during WW2 and was stationed in Trincomalee.  This was one of her books.  It’s full of large black and white photographs.
  • The Sculptures of Michelangelo – again a book of large black and white photographs, which most likely belonged to my dad.  I can remember being especially impressed by the slaves freeing themselves from the rock.
  • The World’s Greatest Paintings: Selected Masterpieces of Famous Art Galleries edited by T Leman Hare.  Three muddy brown volumes probably inherited from my grandfather and a collection of coloured plates of what were then considered significant paintings from famous western galleries.  It’s purely visual, with no information other than title and artist.

The large black and white photographs of Ceylon and the sculptures of Michelangelo have directly influenced my own photography and, although The World’s Greatest Paintings ends at the Pre-Raphaelites, it introduced me to Art History.

  • And lastly The Science of Life by H G Wells, Julian Huxley and G P Wells.

My version of The Science of Life was published by Cassell & Company in 1931 and included some dubious and speculative science.  My favourite picture remains that of the medium ‘Margery’ extruding ‘teleplasm’ from her nose and mouth.

ectoplasm--copy

And here is an example of more conventional, but equally fascinating, science.

science-of-life--copy

Lizz Tuckerman is a freelance multimedia artist based in Sheffield.  She was previously a research scientist working in genetics and reproduction.  Lizz designed this website and has produced artworks inspired by the Reading Sheffield interviews.  She was born near Ironbridge in Shropshire and her early childhood was spent in Penrith and Kilve (Somerset). When her father began work at The National Institute of Agricultural Botany, the family moved to first to Histon, a small village in Cambridgeshire and then to the market town of Saffron Walden in Essex. Lizz has lived in Sheffield for 26 years.

The Reading Journey of Edna B

Edna was born in 1928. When she was a child her family were moved to a new estate, the Flower Estate, built in 1923 on High Wincobank. Billed as ‘dainty villas for well-paid artisans’, the houses had their own toilets and hot water – ‘it was’quite something’.

flower-estate-sheffield

Edna passed the 11 plus and won a place at the City Grammar in the centre of town. She stayed till she was 16. Though her headmaster wanted her to stay on and encouraged her ambition to go into teaching, her parents could not afford it. She could have got a grant from the old pupils’ association, the Holly Guild, but she would have had to pay it back. When female teachers got married they lost their jobs. It was ‘a deterrent’ to taking on such a large debt.

Edna was conscious of how hard both her parents worked to support the children. On Saturday afternoons her father used to walk her down through the allotments to Firth Park Library. The first book she remembers reading, probably when she was about six, was Little Anne of Canada.

It was illustrated, this book, and this girl must’ve lived in Alaska, probably, and I was fascinated by this story and we seemed to get it out several times ‘cos I liked it.

 

little-anne-madeline-brandels

Edna’s father’s mother couldn’t read and write and he was always conscious of what an education would do.

Well, to even read. I mean, he could read and write, but I don’t think he ever sat down and read books.

Edna’s mother’s family had had both money and educational opportunities. Though her mother was unable to pursue her own education she loved reading and came from a family who talked about politics.

They’d got smatterings of culture I’d say. I remember I went to me father’s mother’s and they read these trashy magazines and me mother said, ‘Don’t be reading those’. Now Woman’s Weekly and Woman’s Illustrated were a little bit more posh.

It was from her mother that Edna developed her taste for the novels of Ethel M Dell – ‘They were all tragedies, weren’t they?’

Yes, and I remember standing at Firth Park bus stop waiting for a bus from school and I was reading this Ethel M Dell stood at the bus stop. He said, “Do you like those?” I said, “Oh, I love them”, but I’d only be about 12 or 13 and he was an elderly man. And when I look back I think well there was a tragedy on every page!

 

ethel-m-dell

Edna thinks her mother would have been lent these books by a friend. The only books Edna’ parents owned were her father’s Sunday School prizes. Though her mother read, she never had time to go to the library. In the depression Edna’s mother went out cleaning and then in the Second World War she got some office work. Indoors she was always knitting and sewing. ‘She was ever so industrious.’

When I was at Junior school I had a very far-seeing teacher and she had a little library and we used to borrow those books from her bookshelf. We were supposed to write a little commentary about what we thought but I can’t remember doing it. But they’d have Swallows and Amazons, William books and those sorts of books … Anne of Green Gables and the Dimsie books.

When she won a place at the Central Grammar School, Edna became conscious of the opportunities she and her family had not had. Her friend’s father was a policeman.

They seemed to live in luxury compared to us. They got their rent paid and things like that. Her mother had got time to go to the library and things like that. But, I mean, we had standards, and me mother was a bit [pause] she liked us to speak properly and we always said Grace, you know, and we went to Sunday school, and er, she was a believer, but she, we weren’t, well, she hadn’t time, but they did go on High Days and Holidays.

Edna’s grammar school was round the corner from the Central Library at the top of which was the Graves Art Gallery. ‘We took our sandwiches in there! Well, you got away from school, you see.’

Then, when Edna was married, in her twenties, she found herself in the Derbyshire countryside, a mile from the nearest bus-stop so her reading became dependent on the mobile library: James Thurber, books on antiques – ‘I hadn’t a hope of having an antique!’ Then her sister joined a book club and passed on the thrillers she had bought. She immersed herself in whatever she read. One day her husband came home and found her in tears.

And he said “Who’s upset you? Who’s upset you?” I said, “That little dog’s died”. You know I really lived it! I lived it!

One of the books that has remained with her all her life is Thomas Armstrong’s Crowthers of Bankdam set in the wool mills of West Yorkshire.

You can’t call it trashy, but a bit earthy. The boys played rugby. I mean, as opposed to football. They were middle class people, you know. The girls would have a reasonable education and perhaps went to boarding school but they were, hierarchy, and it was a series. You could follow them on.

Though she enjoyed J.B. Priestley and Arnold Bennett in the early fifties, it was in the sixties, when the family returned to Sheffield, that Edna went to Richmond College and developed reading tastes for some of the authors on her A level literature course: Graham Greene, Gorky and Steinbeck – ‘The Grapes of Wrath, I adored that’. Less to her taste was James Joyce’s Portrait of an Artist: ‘it was so repressed’. This was the only time in Edna’s life that she regularly bought books for herself. When she was a girl she might buy secondhand books from a stall in Norfolk Market or the Girls’ Crystal from the local newsagent, but apart from her college days Edna relied either on libraries or friends for her books. Her college courses changed more than her book-buying habits. When Edna enrolled for her social science course her mother ‘went mad’.

‘ You’ve had three children and there you are going to college!’ I thought mother, ‘I’m nearly going out of my head here’. It was a life saver going up there.

The Reading Journey of Edna B was written by Mary Grover.

You can access Edna’s audio and transcript here 

The Reading Journey of John Y

There was just room for a boy, his bed and a bookcase. In the early thirties there were few boys in Sheffield who were able to go to sleep looking at a full set of naval encyclopaedias and a set of hymn books. But John’s family had rich connections. His father had been an engine room artificer on the HMS Achilles so ‘he must have got some books somewhere to study or do some studying’.  And then he returned to Hadfield’s works and spent his days grappling

with these huge castings and things like that, yet his hobby was repairing watches. So I’m thinking he had some, he must have had some reading knowledge about things like that.

And then there was the Wesleyan Reformed church on John’s mother’s side. Many of his mother’s relatives had been ministers. The book that John has read ‘more than anything’  is a book he came across, by accident, at a friend’s house: One Hundred Years of the Wesleyan Church, published in 1949, a book that contains an etching of  his great grandfather.

IndSS-BromageT

Few of us have ancestors who made it into history books. Stories of his grandparents and meetings with Methodists from all over the country, gave John a fascination with the way events could be mapped and our personal journeys directed. The one book he would never be without is a ‘road map’.

But, having said … ‘a road map’, there are a lot of maps, or books that can act as maps if you want directions in life. And also which way not to go, you know.

map-derbyshire

Hymn books also served this mapping function, with the added advantage that the words remain when precious information has slipped away.

Why I like the hymn books, is because things like that you remember better, because my memory’s very bad now, so I can’t remember things. I remember this one verse in particular: ‘I am not skilled to understand/What God had willed and God has planned/I only know at God’s right hand/Stands one who is my saviour.’ And things like that you remember, and it makes you remember them. This is what I try to do now, to sort of stoke up my memory.

Buildings too ‘stoke up the memory’. The Sheffield church that John attended is now a mosque but when John enters one of Derbyshire’s two remaining Wesleyan Reform churches ‘the memories flood up there’.

Because John has memorised so many hymns, hymn books are not the ones he has at hand.

My favourite book, if you like, is the Derbyshire street guide, because this is Derbyshire, and you can find your way all around Derbyshire by this street guide. It’s the most well-thumbed book I’ve ever had, you know; too soon does it fall to pieces and I have to purchase a new one.

During the war John’s mother worked at The Book Room, the Wesleyan Reform Bookshop in Sheffield. It was to his mother that John feels he owes much of his absorption in history. He feels that his mother would have been a fine minister herself.

John met Meg, his wife, at the Manor Library where Meg had been one of the first librarians. I interviewed them together and he looked guiltily at Meg, as he recalls the use he made of the book case that stood at the foot of his bed when he was a boy. He uses it not only to connect with his relatives but to create a hiding place were they could not enter.

The other thing about the bookcase was one I probably shouldn’t admit to, because I know how Meg is, that I used to create a secret cupboard in here, in amongst the books. And I made a door and pasted the ends of books, the title pages, just to hide it and confuse you. Desecration I suppose it was, of a book.

By Mary Grover

Access John Y’s transcript and audio here

Elsie Brownlee’s Reading Journey

Born  24th June 1925, died  31st January 2015.

Elsie became a regular reader because her father volunteered to find the runaway daughter of the landlady of the boarding house in Anglesey where he and his family were on holiday in the 1930s. He had a motorbike, being the under-manager of a small steel firm in Sheffield. This enabled him to scour the island, find the daughter, persuade her to return home and bring her back to her family.

Successfully found and restored to her family, Gwen from Anglesey became a nurse and fetched up in Sheffield where she lodged with Elsie’s family in Walkley, on a hill two miles away from the city centre. In 1934 the splendid Art Deco Central Library opened in Sheffield.

whitely-illustration[1]

Sheffield Central Library in 2009 by Lawrence Whiteley. (courtesy Sheffield Libraries)

Gwen was amazed that not only had Elsie’s family not discovered this library, they hadn’t used their local library either. So, she helped overcome Elsie’s father suspicion of the germs that might be spread by borrowed books and encouraged Elsie and her mother to enrol at the Central Library, a long trek for them as they hadn’t enough money to go down on the tram.

At about the age of eleven, Elsie became a fervent library user. Not only that, her dream was to work in a library. Elsie: ‘I thought, ‘I’d love to work in a place like this. I’d LOVE to work in a place like this.’

But her father thought otherwise. Because she had enjoyed playing with the typewriter in the steelworks she was destined to become a secretary. Though the next door neighbour’s daughter went to train as a teacher, Elsie’s father thought further education for girls a waste of time as they were bound to get married. Elsie didn’t get married and loathed her job as a secretary.  Her father died in 1952 which meant that Elsie took a second job, in the evening. Walking into town to work from 9 till 5, walking up the hill for her tea, and then walking out of town to the isolation hospital at Lodge Moor to look after sick babies 7-10 and back home for 11, Elsie had no time to go to the library or to read. She went on to nurse her sister and then her mother till they died. It was only in the last few years of her life that she was able to satisfy her passion for reading.

elsie-brownlee-port-mulgrave

Elsie showed me some of her most cherished books: one by Frances Parkinson Keyes bought from the Boots Library sale for 2/-; another, her Scrubby Bears Annual, given to her as a child and lastly the heirloom, unread by anyone in the family, The Ladies’ Cabinet of Fashion, Music and Romance, dated [1849]. When I met her, Elsie was getting most of her books from jumble sales rather than libraries; Phillippa Gregory was a favourite. Her final home was only half a mile from the isolation hospital where she had done her cherished evening job and about four miles up the hills from the Central Library which ‘was warm, safe and gave you constant entertainment’.

Reading Journey by Mary Grover

Access Elsie’s transcript and audio here.